Senior Shanteona Keys has a few items to check off her college bucket list this year. Along with maintaining her 4.0 GPA, Keys is looking to break the all-time university scoring title, be named an Academic All-American and snag the title of Peach Belt Player of the Year. Although seemingly lofty, her goals are a short order compared to what Keys has already achieved.
“There aren’t a lot of things that I’ve accomplished at Georgia College that I actively sought out,” Keys said. “I’m still very humbled by all of the attention, but these are goals that I’m pushing toward and I know, if I perform as I have leading up to this year, I can be successful.
Keys, who was named the first Academic All-American in Bobcat women’s basketball history last February, has made a name for herself not only in her division, but in the entire NCAA.
“I wasn’t nervous until we were all sitting there and he walked in the room,” Keys said about meeting NCAA President Mark Emmert.
Last April, Keys was selected as one of three student-athletes to attend a roundtable discussion with Emmert, covering everything from balancing academics with athletics, to concussions and campus support. Keys, who is a high achiever herself, says balancing classes and basketball isn’t as difficult as some may think.
“I think many people look at it as something that’s impossible, but it’s all about sticking to a routine,” Keys said. “It’s also been a great experience for me because the Georgia College Athletics Department places such a high value in all of the athletes’ education. Having those expectations of doing well in the classroom and on the court has just raised the bar with not only myself, but all student-athletes.”
But for Keys, who has been a three-year starter for the Bobcats, averaging 16.1 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, she didn’t always see basketball in her future.
“I started playing at 11-years-old, and it just sort of happened after I attended a camp,” Keys said. “I was tall, fast and I had some natural ability that made me a good fit for basketball. After I started playing, I just wanted to get better and better.”
Keys continued to play throughout high school in her hometown of Roswell, where she also maintained stellar grades, played the cello and served as student council president. But in her senior year of high school, Keys made the decision to call it quits with basketball and not pursue it going into college. In fact, Keys was planning to attend the University of Georgia, until meeting the Bobcats head coaches and visiting the college.
“She possesses all the great qualities that we want our student athletes to have here at Georgia College,” said head women’s basketball coach Maurice Smith about Keys. “She’s a tremendous leader, has great character and integrity, takes pride in serving others and is a great competitor. Her success academically, on the court, in and outside the campus community is remarkable.”
But all of Keys’ time hasn’t been glory on the court. During a game against Columbus State in 2013, Keys’ failed free throw, due to her fingernail catching the tip of her nose, went viral on the Internet.
“Even something like that, which you wouldn’t think could be a benefit to me, really helped me network and turn that experience into something good,” Keys said.
Looking toward the future, Keys, who switched from athletic training to a mass communication major, plans to pursue some type of broadcast journalism. On her list of possibilities is sideline reporting, working talk show circuits and even becoming the next Oprah Winfrey.
“I’ve always been a fan of Oprah,” Keys said. “When I was thinking of majoring in athletic training I asked myself if I was just taking the easy way out. So that’s when I started to think ‘What can I really see myself doing?’”
With basketball season approaching in early October, Keys is spending time preparing for not only the season, but also the goals ahead of her.
“I can honestly say when I first stepped on campus I had no idea what I was capable of,” Keys said. “Looking at the last three years gives me confidence and knowing that I can achieve anything if I put in hard work.”